Federal Government Agency – Proving the Potential of Integration

Background

In October of 2001, President Bush’s Management Council brought 24 E-Gov projects into the limelight to raise awareness about their potential benefit to the other parts of the Government. These projects related primarily to streamlining and automating of Government processes and promoting the exchange of data. The overall term for these projects is the Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE) which is comprised of numerous government procurement tools and processes.

One significant Government Agency had been looking at ways to take advantage of new procurement technologies to upgrade its internal procurement application. This legacy application played an integral role in the Agency’s functioning, providing a procurement portal, full supply chain support to route products, the initiating of logistics processes and ensuring of proper billing. Upgrading this application could significantly streamline processes at the Agency.

The next step for the Agency, in order to fully leverage the new e-Gov initiatives, would be to establish an internal custom solution that integrated the full functionality of the e-Gov initiatives with a unique, internal management system. The Agency performed an initial review of the available vendor products that could support this effort in 2001 but due to the advent of more capable and open-source technologies, the Agency wanted an additional review performed prior to summarizing the details and making a decision.

The Challenge

Assess the potential of, and provide a one-stop-shop, integrated procurement solution that is in line with modern, overall Government standards.

Performance

In response to a request from the Agency’s CIO, Blackstone supported the effort to investigate the option of utilizing open-source Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) software. Blackstone called upon its expansive experience in custom integration development to review numerous open-source options that had been deployed into production. The review focused on openEAI and Business Integration Engine (BIE) as the two most capable candidates.

The resulting review concluded that the open source options were not prepared to handle the potentially wide variety of integration and automation requirements of the Agency with the ease that more established vendors/products could.

Although capable, openEAI (http://www.openeai.org) proved to be too immature to implement quickly

BIE (http://www.brunswickwdi.com/bie) was a more mature product that included support for web services and integration via JMS, SMTP, HTTP but still did not stand up compared to its more mature competitiors.

This work was being done in preparation for a larger, cross-agency initiative. Based on Blackstone’s performance on the project, Blackstone was asked to present an IAE related presentation to Agency contractors to raise awareness regarding the potential benefits of acquisition tool integration. After Blackstone presented the advantages of acquisition tool integration were immediately clear. In addition to data exchange and process standardization, the solution would provide some of the largest benefit to those who spent time maintaining multiple inventory sets, especially given that the Agency’s product list reached into the millions!

The potential of the cross-Agency initiative became apparent with the realization that the integration solutions being discussed could enable the automatic importing of procurement data from one agency to another. This functionality had the potential to facilitate the automation and standardization of procurement processes across numerous Government Agencies. Furthermore, these efficiencies could result in significant time and monetary savings by reducing the management of multiple inventory lists.

Blackstone not only supported the analysis for this cross-Agency effort but assumed a leadership role in the initial requirements gathering and design process. Blackstone’s familiarity with large scale integration solutions development, coupled with detailed knowledge of process automation challenges, xml based content processing, translation and transformation made this effort a perfect fit.

Results

  • Developed individual proofs of concept for openEAI and BIE that incorporated messaging, web services, and process automation wherever possible in addition to presenting an overall summary and recommendation.
  • Analyzed and delivered a Vendor Selection Evaluation based on open source and COTS EAI platforms.
  • Evangelized the IAE and its potential role with the Agency
  • Demonstrated a potential solutions alignment with IAE’s stated goals

Blackstone brought together its long history of successful integration expertise with the principles of E-Gov and the IAE to not only show others the value that the tenets of IAE can provide, but also the appropriate approach to analyzing, designing, developing and delivering the necessary project lifecycle deliverables that ensure a successful overall delivery.